In the Garden: 2016 Garden Plan

Garden Planning ~ Happiness By the Acre (or square foot) ~ Backyard Veggie Gardens

Spring is in full swing, and that means it’s time to turn a bit of attention to the garden. Beyond the basic spring yard cleanup, we also undertake the planning & preparation of our veggie garden. Today I’m sharing a bit about how we plan out our garden, which produces an abundance of fresh veggies for us during the summer months & some stored food for the winter.

In the Garden: Garden Planning

Gardening Planning ~ Blog post by Bubblegum Sass ~ Garden journals from Taproot Magazine
Seeds from West Coast Seeds and garden journals from Taproot Magazine

There might still be the occasional snowflake falling from the sky these days, but it is time to turn some attention to garden planning & prep. My hubby is truly the brains behind the operation, while I lend my hands & time to the work in the spring, summer & fall. He comes up with our garden plan each year, while he plans out the other yards for his urban farming business. Even the seeds for our own garden get lumped into orders for Happiness By The Acre.


Happy Food pt. 3

Finally a third installment in our “Happy Food” series! You can find the previous two posts here and here. This time around I want to share one of hubby’s fave recipes for low-carb “bread”, Almond Butter Bread. I say “bread” loosely because generally we joke around calling it almond-not-a-bread. It’s close to the texture of actual bread, without having any flour in it. You can slice it, toast it, use it for sandwiches, dip it in egg yolks, and spread your favourite jam on it. Close enough to bread for someone who eats a low-carb diet and seriously misses bread. I’ve grown to quite like it, even though I still eat real bread on occasion. Not sold yet? Let me cut you a slice and slather it with some tasty homemade apple butter.

Almond Butter Bread

Almond Butter Bread

500 ml smooth organic almond butter (we buy ours at Community Natural, but it’s also available at general grocery stores)

6 large eggs (or 5 extra large eggs)

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3/4 cup warm water


Making Almond Butter Bread

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Butter small loaf pan, 8″ x 4″ (be quite generous with your butter so the bread will pop out easily)
  3. Place almond butter in bowl & mix well until almond butter is smooth
  4. Add baking powder & salt and mix well again
  5. Add eggs and hand whip with a fork until, you guess it, mixed well
  6. Add warm water and mix until nice & smooth
  7. Pour batter into loaf pan (it will be quite full, but don’t worry)
  8. Bake for 50 minutes
  9. Remove from loaf pan and cool on rack
  10. Slice and enjoy!

We’ve tried adding tasty bits like raisins and nuts to the batter before baking. It’s yummy, but they do tend to settle to the bottom of the bread. Maybe you could drop some raisins in part way through the baking process? Haven’t experimented with that too much. If you’re looking to toast it, keep in mind that it burns a little more quickly than normal bread, so turn down the heat on your toaster a bit. Also, the bread is a touch bland, but that’s why it works so well with whatever you decide to spread on it!

This week, I think I’m going to venture into actual bread making. We picked up some lovely Red Fife flour from Country Thyme Farm. Confession: I’ve never actually made bread before. Working with yeast makes me nervous. It’s why we don’t have homemade cinnamon buns in the house, no matter how much I love the smell of fresh baked bread. Hoping to change that in the coming weeks. Wish me luck! Even if I pull off “real” bread, I’ll still be making this tasty Almond Butter Bread for hubby & myself to nibble on.

Happy Food pt. 2

It’s been a little long in coming, but finally put together the second installation of my Happy Food series. You can find Part 1 here. Keeping with my intention of changing some of our food habits, I finally decided to get on board with my hubby and cut out all vegetable & canola oils (including shortening). I wasn’t using them all that much really, mostly in my baking. We already frequently use olive oil, butter, or bacon grease to cook with. We decided to start using coconut oil for some things. The switch wasn’t as difficult as I had built it up to be. In my mind, it was going to be a real pain in the butt and mean sacrificing some of my fave recipes (many passed down from my family) and having to find new ones to use.

This has not been the case. I found some helpful, easy tips online about substituting coconut oil for vegetable/canola oil & shortening. I also embraced the fact that things might not turn out “right” the first time. Armed with that attitude and determined to commit to the switch, I dove in. I started substituting coconut oil in my baking in the fall, and so far, there hasn’t really been a fail recipe. So today, I want to share some of the tasty things Sammy & I have been eating (hubby is low-carb, so he skips most of these treats… being low-carb is quite a big eating habit change, one that I’m not mentally or emotionally capable of committing to, yet).

First off, you might ask, why coconut oil? It’s not locally grown or made and travels large distances to get onto my pantry shelf. This is one of those instances where healthy outweighs buying local, that is, until we have our own dairy cow & can make enough butter to keep our household happy without breaking the bank. For hubby, who believes in low-carb eating, the fat in coconut oil is not something to be scared of, but embraced. You can find plenty of info and ugly videos on just how disgusting vegetable & canola oil is. With the limited time we have on this earth, I’d much rather put yummy organic coconut oil in my body than that stuff! Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE butter at our house and have been trying to purchase butter from pasture-raised, grass-fed dairy. Simply put, it’s expensive, especially in the quantities we already use. The good quality milk to make the butter is pricey too. Again, I dream of days when we have buckets of milk from our own dairy cow to make yummy, healthy butter.

So let’s check out some of the tasty treats.

We’ve made yummy pancakes, waffles, even Sammy’s birthday cake. Some of these were done with a box mix for dry ingredients (hey, I didn’t say we were perfect). Homemade biscuits are great with that touch of coconut taste. And we’ve made lots & lots of muffins! Coconut oil in muffins has been a delightful discovery. Try it! Another wonderful recipe find has been Coconut Crack Bars. They’re a super snack at our house now, that even Sam loves! I even figured out a low-carb version for hubby (skip the agave syrup & salt, increase the coconut oil, melt some of the coconut oil beforehand and add some lime juice). And who can forget THE best gingerbread cookies I’ve ever made!?! Yep, for Christmas this year, I stuck to my commitment to avoid shortening and made my mom’s gingerbread cookie recipe with coconut oil. Best batch I’ve ever made! Seriously. That officially ended my fear of substituting coconut oil into my fave recipes.

By the way, frying some veggies (like kale & chard) and meats (like beef) in coconut can add a nice change in flavor. I sometimes put just a dab of it on cooked veggies before we serve them (so yummy on carrots). There’s a lot you can do with coconut oil!

Here’s our fave muffin recipe for you to try:

Banana Chocolate Chip Coconut Muffins

Banana chocolate chip muffins by Bubblegum Sass

• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 egg
• 1/2 cup coconut oil (or a touch more for even more moistness)
• 1/2 cup plain or vanilla greek yogurt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
• 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or more if you want)
• 1/2 cup finely shredded coconut (optional)

1. In a medium size bowl, combine egg, yogurt, and vanilla. Microwave for 20 seconds & let sit.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. Measure out your coconut oil & melt it.
4. Add the melted coconut oil to the bowl of other wet ingredients. Mix well with a whisk.
5. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
6. Fold in bananas and chocolate chips and optional shredded coconut.
7. Fill parchment paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full.
8. Bake at 350 degrees F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
9. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to wire racks.

Tips For Baking With Coconut Oil

  • To substitute coconut oil for vegetable oil, simply use the amount of oil called for in the recipe & then melt it. It’s a straight 1-1 substitution amount.
  • To substitute coconut oil for shortening, reduce the amount of oil used by about 25% (for example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of shortening, use 3/4 cups of coconut oil).
  • To melt my coconut oil for baking recipes, I usually pop it into the microwave for 15 sec. The “experts” on coconut oil recommend a double boiler. If you use a microwave, just be very careful not to over heat. Coconut oil melts easily.
  • Coconut oil has a lower smoke-point than vegetable oil, so keep that in mind if you’re frying it.
  • The  most helpful thing to keep in mind, if you’re adding melted coconut to other wet ingredients in a recipe (like eggs & milk), make sure those ingredients are not straight-out-of-the-fridge cold. Start your baking by mixing together the cold wet ingredients, microwave them for 20 sec & let them sit while you organize everything else. This will ensure that when you add the melted coconut oil to the wet ingredients, the oil won’t start to cool & re-solidify right away. The first recipe I tried, I didn’t heed this advice & the dough never was a great consistency for mixing thoroughly.

Hope you enjoy experimenting with coconut oil! I’ll try to post some of the other recipes we use, like our homemade biscuits and gingerbread cookies, later this month.

Happy food pt. 1

Quit the wrong stuff

We started overhauling the types of food we buy a few years ago, when hubby went low-carb. Since then, we have continued to make small changes, searching out local suppliers, opting for organic varieties here & there, less sugar on occasion, more fat all the time, meat, meat & more meat, and trying to align our kitchen with the seasons.

I’ve felt compelled to make more changes lately. We recently switched over to buying 80% of our weekly groceries at Community Natural Foods. That’s a pretty big change for a gal who has shopped at Safeway since her birth. We still pick up a some things at Safeway that we haven’t figured out alternatives for. Maybe at some point we will or learn to go without. Slow steady changes.

It really does come down to quality over quantity. Our personal farming motto is “good food, happy people”. It just feels like the right time to live out that philosophy more fully. It’s not a change that can happen overnight. We’ve known that from the beginning. And I certainly don’t recommend that you try to change all your eating & buying habits overnight. You need to believe in the changes that you make. Each and every one of them. It can take time & careful consideration. You need to weigh your own personal priorities & passions.

When it comes to food, the two big considerations for us is the distance it has traveled and just how healthy it truly is. In other words, our first priority is locally sourced food. Our second priority is organic. Local organic is the ultimate goal, besides growing & raising it ourselves. Of course, we’re not perfect. We make plenty of compromises along the way, but bit by bit, we’re trying to change.

The quote above from Seth Godin is so appropriate for this lifestyle overhaul. We will try to quit the “wrong” stuff, and stick with the “right” stuff. I thought I would make this a new post series on the blog, documenting how we choose to do one or the other on our quest for happy food. We’re all hungry for it in our own ways.